When you’re in the big apple, you take a big bite.
When I first learnt my office was about to send me to New York for a week, I was thrilled. Until I received the list of places I had to visit and things I had to ingest in order to satisfy Ms Skewer’s vicarious travel lust.
I’m not as in love with cooking as The Skewer (I worked out my spot in the food chain fairly early on in life), but I love a good meal as much as the next guy, and found NYC to be over-run with opportunities to make a pre-emptive strike against hunger.
Probably the highlight for me was brunch. An expat American colleague had been regaling me with tales of this legendary NY pursuit (I hear they are lobbying the IOC pretty hard to have it included in the 2016 summer Olympics) and I was keen to try and find a ‘locals-only’ kind of spot. So Ms Skewer sleuthed through the Time Out brunch recommendations and sent me to a place in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, called Char No.4.
Jet lag woke me far too early on a Sunday, so I took a stroll through central Park, grabbed an iced coffee and madeline from the Bouchon at Columbus Circle (am I missing something here? What is the fuss with this place?), took a deep breath and went down into the subway.
For a kid from Australia, a visit to NYC is just like stepping into a 1980’s episode of Sesame St, and the subway brought home the faux televised nostalgia in a big way. I set the playlist to The Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ while the F train took me to Brooklyn, where I found the people were, by and large, still getting out of bed. So I strolled some more while watching the farmers market and a street fair set up in the already-stifling heat.
The good folk at Char offered me a seat at the bar (this is possibly America’s greatest contribution to dining - what a practical yet sophisticated option) and I ordered up their Prix Fixe Brunch while marvelling at probably the biggest single collection of bourbons I’ve ever seen. Oh, man, if only they were rums.
Woe betide anyone who orders a G&T @ Char #4
The menu read: House smoked brown sugar ham / Poached egg / Crispy potatoes with green onion & garlic / Buttermilk biscuit with homemade jam / Brown butter applesauce, and came with fresh orange juice and coffee. Sound good? You have no idea how accurately it hit the spot. The applesauce was sweet and a little tangy and the biscuits were a revelation. I substituted the alleged coffee for a schooner of Brooklyn Wiess (not a million miles from Hoegaarden, in it’s citrus-clove effervescence), which helped just a little.
That’s Sunday morning heaven on a Brooklyn plate.
Char No.4 itself is a stylish yet relaxed spot (at least in the calm before it gets completely swamped by the bugaboo logjam of newly-minted Brooklyn parents) and it probably gets good at night. But I had to go – I was on a mission to walk the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan, in time for work (Yes! I know! On a Sunday!).
New York: your bagels were as good as you promised, your pretzels eye-wateringly salty, your pizza by the slice a godsend, and the pastrami on rye from Katz’s Deli was a landmark in it’s own right.
Where Harry met a recently slaughtered herd of buffalo, apparently.(Katz's Deli Pastrami on Rye)
How can something that looks like this taste so bloody good?!? (Language! Mr. Kitchen Hand. Tsk, tsk)
A very well-travelled work colleague reckoned the appetiser she ate at the bar (yes, there’s that stunningly good idea again) of Perilla in Greenwich Village was in her top 5 of all time.
But, man, have you got some work to do on the coffee front. Apart from a couple of little hole-in-the-wall, locals-only places an extremely helpful colleague (and Hell’s Kitchen resident) led me to, the coffee in New York was every bit as bad as everyone told me it was going to be.
But you know what, NYC? I’ll forgive you.